The Jungle Book “That’s What Friends Are For/The Vulture Song” (1967)

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“That’s What Friends are For”, also known as “The Vulture Song” is another funny Disney song, and a great addition to The Jungle Book film, not just because of the music, but also because of the story behind what ALMOST happened with it.

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Allow me to explain. As you hear the song in the film, it is presented in the style of a barbershop quartet (four-part harmony, traditionally performed with male voices). But it wasn’t always going to be that way. The original plan was for the song to be a rock ‘n roll style featuring…*drumroll please*…..the BEATLES!!

Yes, THOSE Beatles: Paul, John, Ringo and George, aka one of the most popular bands to ever exist. The plan was for each vulture to be modeled after a member of the band, and they would perform this rock number for Mowgli. How cool would that have been? Unfortunately for all of us, negotiations between Disney and the band ultimately fell through. When told the band couldn’t do it, the writers changed the song from a rock piece to a simple song in four-part harmony, resulting in the song we hear today. But according to a story I heard in the “Making Of” featurette on my DVD copy of the film, one or two of the vultures are still modeled after the Beatles.

The Jungle Book “That’s What Friends are For”

“The Vulture Song” is really the last major song of the film (there is “My Own Home” still to come but that’s much simpler than this). By this point, Mowgli feels abandoned by everyone he’s ever cared about (Baloo let it slip that he wants Mowgli to go to the Man Village too) and has run away to a desolate area that’s apparently outside the jungle altogether. Here, a depressed Mowgli comes to the attention of four bored-out-of-their-minds vultures, who continually ask each other “So what we gonna do?” Since most people/things that come their way are um…well, dead, they’re surprised to see someone still alive so they go over to talk. Poor Mowgli doesn’t want to talk though, and the vultures see he needs cheering up, so the vultures decide to be his new friends.

We’re your friends
We’re your friends
We’re your friends to the bitter end (the bitter end)

When you’re alone (when you’re alone)
Who comes around (who comes around)
To pluck you up (To pluck you up)
When you are down (When you are down)

And when you’re outside, looking in
Who’s there to open the door

That’s what friends are for

As they sing and dance with Mowgli however…Shere Khan comes waltzing into the picture. No one sees the tiger, but he certainly sees THEM. Shere Khan’s addition to the song is one of my favorites ever.

Who’s always eager to extend
A friendly claw
That’s what friends are for
And when you’re lost in dire need

Who’s at your side at lightning speed
We’re friends of every creature
Comin’ down the pike
In fact we never met an animal we didn’t like

So you can see
We’re friends in need
And friends in need
Are friends indeed
We’ll keep you safe
In the jungle forevermore

(Shere Khan) That’s what friends are for!

This is the one moment of the film where George Sanders (voicing Shere Khan) doesn’t perform the voice. Instead, this one moment is done by legendary voice actor Thurl Ravenscroft (the voice behind “You’re a Mean one, Mr. Grinch”). The moment at the end where his voice drops incredibly low always fascinated me as a kid, and laugh if you like, but I used to try and follow along, even though I knew my voice couldn’t go anywhere near that low.

At any rate, please enjoy listening to “The Vulture Song” and stay tuned for more Jungle Book songs to come!

*all images are the property of Walt Disney Studios

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For earlier entries in The Jungle Book, see:

The Jungle Book “Colonel Hathi’s March”

The Jungle Book “The Bear Necessities”

The Jungle Book “I Wanna Be Like You”

The Jungle Book “Trust in Me”

The Jungle Book “My Own Home”

For more great Disney songs and films, check out the main page here: Disney Films & Soundtracks A-Z

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10 thoughts on “The Jungle Book “That’s What Friends Are For/The Vulture Song” (1967)

      1. emmakwall

        Yay!! And you’re welcome 🙂 can’t wait for more songs!

        One of my favourite bits in The Jungle Book is when Baloo is in the monkey disguise and it all just disintegrates as he’s singing and dancing, always cracks me up! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Pingback: The Jungle Book “My Own Home” | Film Music Central

  2. Pingback: The Jungle Book “The Bear Necessities” | Film Music Central

  3. Pingback: The Jungle Book “Colonel Hathi’s March” | Film Music Central

  4. Pingback: The Jungle Book “I Wanna Be Like You” (1967) | Film Music Central

  5. Pingback: The Jungle Book “Trust in Me” (1967) | Film Music Central

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